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44 Votes on Roguelike of the Year!

December 29th, 2011 1 comment

Okay, so it ain’t exactly matching the 700+ votes of ToME4, but 35 votes for Broken Bottle and 9 for Run from the Shadow is extremely gratifying for me. 9% of the games got over 80% of the votes in the poll, so even getting 1% is fantastic. Broken Bottle has been the highest voted 7DRL this year, which is pretty damned great in my books. Thanks a lot to those who voted!

2012 is almost upon us. The votes for Run from the Shadow remind me that I really must polish it up and produce a far better version. With that in mind here are some further ideas in my head for the coming year:
– Port Gruesome and Toby the Trapper to the T-Engine, with updates to both (including massive updates to Gruesome)
– Port Unstoppable to Android (will likely never happen, but it’s a nice thought)
– 7DRL based on sanctity, rage and revenge (come on, March!)
– Make a *Band/DoomRL hybrid called Hobbits with Guns (a much bigger project)
– Make a massive procedural story-based roguelike that’ll blow the world away (I’ll almost certainly never find time for this, but I have some cool ideas that I’d like to play with at least)

I dunno what I’ll actually achieve, but I am itching to make some new stuff next year. I’m still very much a newbie roguelike dev, and I have a lot to learn with the T-Engine especially, but whenever I get the time to code it’s still fun to discover new things. I worry that if I ever get beyond the newbie dev stage I’ll find the whole experience dull…

Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for some very very cool interviews and features on Roguelike Radio. 2011 has been a nice beginning for the podcast, and I have high hopes that 2012 will be even better.

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Rogue Accessory

August 2nd, 2011 Comments off

I was going through a department store and my girlfriend pointed out something which she joked that I should buy. Much to her chagrain I bought it with delight:

Rogue accessory

Yes, it’s a large wooden @ symbol. Not sure why such a thing was for sale in a department store, but upon seeing it I knew I had to have it. I’m not really one for home decorations (being a bloke and all) but this now has a proud space on my shelf. Next to it is a small toy I saw one time that puts me in mind of a baby grue. Yes, I’m a geek… :)

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Response to Broken Bottle

April 12th, 2011 Comments off

Broken Bottle has come fourth in a review of all of this year’s 7DRLs by an esteemed committee of reviewers (I was a member of the committee myself, but less esteemed and of course utterly uninvolved in reviewing my own game, though I had a lot of fun reviewing others). Needless to say I’m quite proud of this, especially since there was such a huge breadth of quality games this year.

Additionally there has also been a discussion thread raised on rgrm entitled “Breaking down Broken Bottle” – an analysis by Jeff Lait of the artistic messages in the game. Be warned that it is rather wordy, and my response even more so – it also contains severe spoilers that’ll ruin your enjoyment of the game if you haven’t already played it. Again I am proud that my game could bring about such detailed discussion and analysis. It should be fairly obvious to anyone playing that there is some attempt at the whole “Games as Art” thing in the game, and though some people have told me they’re not convinced I’m glad that it’s provoked a thoughtful reaction in others. A lot of careful design choices went into the aesthetics and the mechanics of the game to get the right atmosphere and feel. It’s good to see some success from this.

Broken Bottle: 7drl post mortem

March 21st, 2011 3 comments

I’ve enjoyed reading some other post mortems and figure that now it’s a week after the challenge I might do my own.

Broken Bottle splashscreen image

I made this splashscreen image to alleviate some coding stress - only took a few minutes with a stock image and some Photoshop filters

Broken Bottle was a vague idea I had for a while – I wanted to make a really gritty post-apocalyptic game, with a dark world and a flawed hero. I wanted something far more serious than the Fallouts. I wanted the player to feel unnerved by certain game actions, and I wanted alcoholism to play an important role in gameplay. I wanted a sprawling open wasteland game, with various areas to explore and factions to encounter (yeah, that never made it in). I had a general idea of a story about an alcoholic that had abandoned his daughter. I never thought I’d try any of this in 7 days…

It was only on the eve of the challenge that I decided I would definitely give it a go. I had planned before (and publicly announced before) that I would be making a sequel to UNSTOPPABLE, but as the Saturday approached I became more and more unhappy with this limited scope and this idea resurfaced. I was also disappointed to find out no one was planning a T-Engine based game after ToME4 won Roguelike of the Year. Finally on Friday night I thought screw it, I’m making a post-apocalyptic game, and I’m going to use the T-Engine. I can learn Lua and a whole new engine in 7 days, right? Initially my idea was to be called “Mineshaft Gap”, a simple jokey game involving exploring caverns and killing commies. But as I started writing an intro text some of my darker designs crept in, and Broken Bottle began to take shape in my head.

Picking up Lua and the T-Engine from scratch wasn’t easy, especially since the documentation for the latter is very thin on the ground. My only real programming experience beforehand is making quite simple games in FreePascal. I had never used other people’s algorithms before, and even wrote my own line-drawing and circle-drawing code. This was more than a step into the unknown – it was a completely different world. My only reference source was a small example game provided with the T-Engine itself, and the utterly massive ToME4. Scary stuff!

On the first day I stripped out bits of the example module I didn’t want (like all the talent code) and started getting the interface set up in my desired style. This took… a crazy amount of time. Simply setting up a little list of the player stats was a mammoth task. I copied code from ToME4, I fiddled, I tweaked, I went through error after error until finally it began to take shape. I made rats and dogs as my first basic enemies, and used the standard dungeon generator that comes with the engine. At the end of day 1 a very very basic game was in place, and I continued adding things bit by bit. Most of Sunday was spent tweaking the interface more to use only washed out colours (annoyingly the T-Engine over-rides this in certain areas) and gave a simple end-game. With the start and end done I just needed a middle.

ToME4 screenshot

Much code copypastad courtesy of ToME4 - many thanks to DarkGod! Wish my game looked so pretty :(

Lua was easier to get used to than I expected. The only thing I had to look up was how to comment. The T-Engine is a bit more mysterious though, especially as I’d never worked with multiple code files and object-orientated stuff before. Some things came easy, others were aggravating. Putting in an inventory system was pretty painless, even though I’d never coded items before – the engine sorts out most of the grunt work. Making weapons cause extra damage in combat took many painful hours though, as I tried various approaches and encountered problem after problem. DarkGod was very useful on IRC, but he wasn’t always there, so I was often in the dark, tearing my hair out as I tried to understand the errors.

On Tuesday I started writing some story pieces in work. I hadn’t planned to have much of a story, but it all just came naturally, and I’m quite proud of what I wrote (it’s the highlight of the game really). I had to physically stop myself putting in too much humour. As it is I partly regret the Palin reference – it’s just wrong in tone. The last thing I wanted is a game plagued with poor reference-based humour like Fallout 2. Getting the hallucinations/dreams in took some work, as did having them spread out the right amount so they’re not seen too quickly or so far apart that they’re never seen in the game. As it is I guess the drunken dreams should come easier, but I’m happy enough with the implementation. I also added in alternative descriptions to most enemies for when the character is drunk, with the intention being to have the world feel different when inebriated. I never got to fully expand on this as much as I would have liked.

Broken Bottle hallucination example

The story became important for me, both for its own reading merit and setting the grim scene

As the days went by I got very worried – a lot of important features were still missing, like negative effects from alcohol abuse or withdrawal, and every bit of coding always took longer than I expected. Most importantly I needed the piranha mechanics. The piranhas were an idea I’d had for a long time (inspired by Brazilian street kids) and the game wouldn’t be the same without them. With a bit of help from DarkGod though I manage to get them stealing and running away – the code itself is actually very simple, since most of the work happens engine-side. He also helped me with making them flee from gunshots (and with making gunshots even happen). I’d initially wanted the children to only approach the player in packs, but I scaled back that idea due to time constraints. I’m very happy with how they are in the game, and every time someone tells me “I hate those fucking piranhas!” I know I have done my work well :)

The last night of coding was painful, as my to do list was still very long. My girlfriend was staying over and she really didn’t appreciate me staying up coding till 5am :/ But I was still trying to get combat working properly, and every change I made just seemed to make new errors. I was sleep deprived from the week in general, and doing the most basic correction was an effort of will. Eventually I got the combat doing what I wanted, I retuned various things and got the game shipped out 4 hours before my 9am deadline. Ah, the sweet slumber that welcomed me after…

Broken Bottle piranhas

Fucking piranhas! :P

Alas, the game had some bugs. Nothing game-breaking, but the 1.1 release was still vital. It fixed a big bug with the piranhas stealing items (I forgot to give them inventories for the items to go *into*) and a bug when trying to kill yourself, whilst also tweaking a few things. I took the opportunity to add character sheets (copied some stuff from ToME for that) and removed HP regen based on feedback that it was too easy to just rest up between fights.

1.1 ain’t perfect, but I’m happy enough with it. It’s not exactly a work of art that will move you to your soul, but I hope the somewhat unnerving story and atmosphere will be appreciated by some. If I were to go further I’d add far more varied text to the game, with different combat messages based on enemy type and weapon type and drunkenness. I also had plans for achievements (well, “traits” – some would be negative) that never made it in. There might be some other tweaks too, like changing the effects of alcohol, and some of the dialogue could do with being more Americanised (I wanted a Grapes of Wrath feel to the language used). As it is I’m proud enough of doing what content I did get in and working, and the linear nature of the game doesn’t make it replayable enough to really justify updating much further. And, after all, it’s a 7drl, and my 7 days are long up.

Watch this space for a report on the highlights of the 2011 7DRLs. I’ve reviewed 28 so far…

The 7 Days of Creation

March 5th, 2009 1 comment

This Saturday begins the fifth annual 7 day roguelike competition, when developers try the daunting task of making a complete game in 168 hours.  In spite of very little time and even less programming knowledge I intend to compete.  Anyone who has played Gruesome will know just how basic my skills are so far, so don’t expect much from me in comparison to previous awesome 7DRLs (and fresh ones like jice’s beautiful Pyromancer and kaw’s nifty Emperor Engine).  However I intend to use it as an important learning experience to try out something new, and in particular try out something that Gruesome will never possess: combat.

To be perfectly honest this is one of the things that really pushed me to start developing roguelikes.  I knew for a while I’d like to make my own, but reading about the annual 7DRL competition really put some imperative on me last year to learn enough coding to be able to participate.  Cool inventive games like Jeff Lait’s You Only Live Once and Fatherhood are nothing short of inspirational.  I wish I had a bit more programming experience by now, but I’m happy to be able to even consider joining in.  It’s a good opportunity to try out new things, develop my skills a little, and of course it should hopefully be fun!  On top of that there’ll be a host of cool games to try out next week, so keep your eyes peeled!

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Once upon a beginning…

January 28th, 2009 16 comments

Hi, and welcome to “The Adventures of a Newbie Roguelike Dev”, a weblog featuring articles from a beginning game designer. I call myself a newbie because my programming skills are very poor – I have no knowledge of pointers, file-handling or OOP and have yet to implement basic game mechanics like AI, pathfinding and items. However, I have released a game, and quite a fun one at that, in spite of its simplicity (or maybe because of that). It’s called Gruesome, and you can find it here. Give it a quick try – you might just like it.

This blog will sporadically feature update and development notices about this game and others I have planned, but more importantly I intend to write a few articles about my experiences in taking up programming and game design. Aspiring developers may find it a source of inspiration, or maybe even a warning of what not to do. Experienced developers may find it a fresh take on conventional ideas. Overall though I hope it’s simply enjoyable to read, as I try to tread lightly past the hazardous pitfalls every developer must face: bugs, procrastination and over-ambition.